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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
February 2010 Email this to a friend

Dublin
The Emerald Isle only legalized sodomy in 1993 and Irish partygoers are still sowing their oats.

By Staff reports

Front Lounge, Dublin
At Front Lounge

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Dublin article click DailyXtraTravel

If you hear the word 'craic' (pronounced 'crack') in Dublin, know that it means 'good times' or 'fun' -- often associated with drinking. The Irish are a complicated, but definitely craic-loving, people with a friendly approachability.

from staff reports

Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and U- 2 aren't the only reasons for things Irish to be in vogue. Droves of young people have been flocking to the Irish capital Dublin for years now since the "Celtic Tiger" euro-fueled economy began attracting so many ambitious Eastern Europeans who now call this home. They've been joined by other immigrants and visitors from all over the world who have come to enjoy the party, along with the saucy native Irish. Indeed, the majority of people in the central district appear to be from somewhere else judging by the melange of languages and accents other than Irish.

Irish brews and whiskies are famous worldwide, and many and varied are those centers of Irish social life, the pubs. Dubliners in particular have a well-deserved reputation for enjoying a drink. With every round, the brogues become more pronounced and a mischievous humor emerges; queer descendants of ancient Celts and Norsemen in this Emerald Isle can hold their own in sometimes raucous partying, almost any night.

Sexual liberation is still fresh in the collective memory here. Not long ago, condoms had to be smuggled across the border from Northern Ireland, divorce and abortion were illegal, and being gay practically was too (only decriminalized in 1993). But things have changed, and the scene has begun to move out of the clubs and into the mainstream. As a consequence, fewer bars are exclusively gay here now than in the "bad" old days.

Dublin's gay nightspots are easily walkable from one another, and on most evenings the streets are full of people crowding the sidewalks and pubs of the Temple Bar area along the River Liffey. There's plenty of live traditional music, as well as authentic Irish stew, to be found here. With smoking banned indoors, many people congregate outside, and conversations are easy with most anyone who catches your fancy.

Going Out

The Dragon (64-65 South Great Georges Street) is a lavish cocktail bar and lounge nightclub on two floors. Open daily from 5pm, they have occasional shows, usually without cover charge. It's quite packed on the weekends with a young, stylish crowd of guys, and also women, who play until 2:30am Thursdays through Saturdays, but not so late Sunday through Wednesday.

Front lounge (33 Parliament Street), gay- owned-and-operated, is a unique, attitude-free club. Anyone -- gay, straight, bi, lesbian, or whatever -- is welcome, and celebrities the likes of Sinead O'Connor and Elton John have been spotted here. The Village Voice called it "the most stylish, funky, and open-minded bar in Dublin." Front Lounge hosts special events and packs 'em in for a festive Karaoke Night on Tuesday, and Thursday nights are popular for their mojito drinks specials. Fresh tapas are served all day, as are cocktails such as their Appletini, while DJs spin a wide variety of music. In the Front Lounge find a large selection of beers and wines from around the world, including U.S. Bud, and several Eastern European brews. This is an ideal place to start the night out in the Irish capital as it gets going early. They're also the best (and only gay) place to watch the big sports events.

The George (89 South Great Georges Street) has been around so long that their old pub, Bridie's, has been affectionately tagged the "Jurassic Room" by some. It opens at half past noon daily until 2:30am (except Monday and Tuesday 11:30pm). Their big Wednesday-through-Sunday dance club opens 5pm to 2:30am, with a young and energetic crowd. Nightly acts and shows include Wednesday Space N'Vader, alternative drag with Vada Beau and Divina; Friday dance contests for thousand euro prizes; and various bingo and karaoke nights. There's dancing before and after the shows, with no cover before 10pm.

Pantibar (7-8 Capel St) owned and operated by Dublin's most-loved drag queen Panti, onstage Thursdays for the most popular night to kick off the weekends, full of campy escapades. Open nightly 5pm to midnight; quieter on weekdays and a good place to unwind after work.

One night dance clubs

Glitz is the Tuesday night gay dance event at Break for the Border (2 Johnstons Place, Lower Stephens Street) from 11 pm to 3am.

Special gay nights at normally straight clubs come and go frequently. Check listings to be sure, but try these: Sunday Social at the Sycamore Club (9 Sycamore Street); Thursday Prhomo at the Base Bar (6 Wicklow St); and Sundays at Spy (Powerscourt Townhouse, South Williams Street).

The Queer & Alternative dance event is periodic, see online for the next date. Website Queer ID can help keep you updated about this very changeable Dublin dance line-up.

Saunas

Boilerhouse (12 Crane Lane), a popular men's sauna and social club also in Temple Bar. Billed as "Dublin's best and biggest sauna," it's a treat to explore, with colorful and cavernous cruisy areas, a cafe, and two steam rooms. Private rooms are also available where you can let off some steam with one of the many loyal regulars who keep this place busy, especially on weekends. The Boilerhouse is open 1 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday-Thursday, and non-stop from 1 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. on Monday morning.

The other sauna in town, the Dock Sauna (21 Upper Ormond Quay), has a steamroom, dry sauna, video and dark rooms, internet access, snacks and refreshments.

Lodgings

The Clarence Hotel (6-8 Wellington Quay; 353 1 407 0800) is a comfortable general public hotel right at Temple Bar beside the River Liffey.

The Merchant House (8 Eustace Street; 353 1 633 4447) at the heart of Temple Bar, has four luxury suites in a restored 18th Century merchant townhouse with all the amenities. The private entrance is secure and there are reduced rate parking facilities nearby.

Dormer beds go for as little as 10 euros a night for those in a group at Barnacles (19 Temple Lane; Barnacles.ie), a pleasant hostel at the center of Temple Bar. They also have private rooms with double beds, en suite bathrooms, and balconies at a reasonable price. The international backpacker mix is informal, they have a communal kitchen you can use, and reception is open 24 hours. The drawback here is you can't bring newly-met friends back with you.

About 10 minutes by bus from city center in a quiet neighborhood overlooking a park, you'll find a decidedly comfortable option: Nua Haven Bed and Breakfast (087- 686-7062). Owners Bruno and Mike can be friendly and helpful without being intrusive. The buffet breakfast is a gourmet, do-it-yourself affair, and available to you anytime between 8 a.m. to noon, so late sleepers won't go hungry. Rooms are comfortable and include TV/VCRs and en suite bathrooms, plus they have broadband internet access.

Eating out

Dublin is blessed with an amazing variety of restaurants with authentic cuisines from all over the world, as well as basic home-grown offerings. Many of the pubs have daily lunch specials, too.

Juice (73-83 South Great Georges Street) is an innovative and stylish vegetarian restaurant between the George and the Dragon, with natural and organic food at reasonable prices. Besides the many freshly prepared juices and smoothies, they offer delicious vegan and veggie lunches and dinners daily till 10pm. Juice also offers a great selection of organic wines and beers, as well as exotic teas, organic coffees, and guilt-free desserts.

The gay-owned Gruel (68a Dame Street) and its sister restaurant Mermaid Cafe (69/70 Dame Street) are two must-try dining choices conveniently located between the two principal gay streets in town. Owners Ben and Mark started the upscale- but-funky Mermaid Cafe 11 years ago, and then Gruel followed on the Mermaid's success five years later as a more economical way to enjoy the great culinary creations of cooks devoted to naturally delicious, wholesome, and hearty grub. Open daily serving lunch and dinner, Gruel, as its name suggests, offers simple but tasty fare: a cornucopia of delightfully under-processed victuals, including naturally raised meats, fresh soups, daily specials, as well as lots of great teas and coffees.

Other gay-friendly Temple Bar restaurants include:
Chameleon (1 Lower Fawne's) for Indonesian fare; Lemon Jelly (10/11b Essex Street), loved for their wholesome bagels, panini, and stuffed crepes in both savory and sweet varieties; Monty's of Kathmandu (28 Eustace), an award winning Nepalese restaurant; and the Tea Room (6-8 Wellington Way) at the Clarence Hotel; and Trastevere (1 Temple Bar Square) for "New York-style Italian."

Other restaurants a little further out include: L'Ecrivain (109a Lower Baggot), for fine dining that's popular enough to require reservations most nights; Saba (26-28 Clarendon), serving traditional Thai and Vietnamese food with rich authentic flavors; Trocadero (3 St. Andrews Street), a theater-inspired restaurant with highly-rated food near St. Stephen's Green; and Odessa (13-14 Dame Court), with simple but tasty food, comfortable atmosphere, and reasonable prices.

For an inexpensive nibble while listening to the street musicians play at Temple Bar Square, or just watching the river and the people flow by, there's a multitude of take-outs, from kababs to burgers, in the area. Three good-quality fast food locales with decent prices include: Burdock's (Epicurian Hall, 13 Liffey Walk), Dublin's most experienced fish and chip shop (since 1913!), just across Ha'Penny Bridge; Di Fontaine's Pizza (3 Crown Alley), beside the famous Eamonn Doran's Bar bar and music venue on the square, offering big, American-style slices; and Heavenly Hot Dogs (3 Temple Bar Square), with tables on the square and a fun international staff.

The Saturday market stalls at Meeting House Square are a good place to get fresh produce, local cheese, fresh baked goodies, and various kinds of other finger-food snacks, too.

Shopping

Before a rowdy all-nighter at one of those wild Dublin dance parties, get a makeover from someone who understands the beauty needs of the body-conscious male, and who offers exfoliation, waxing, massage, facials, and more. Stephen Thomas Beauty Salon (64, Dame Street, Unit 1, Coghills House) in Temple Bar will set you up for the runways of Milan -- or at least the back-alleys of Dublin -- looking your jaw- dropping best.

Basic Instincts (8 Eustace Street) is Dublin's only gay-owned store of its kind, with a great selection of leatherwear, PVC, rubberwear, and intimate lingerie. They also carry a full section of adult magazines, greeting cards, and DVDs, plus gifts for all kinds of kinky occasions, including items from Mr. B of Amsterdam. The all-natural Chinese Viagra they carry comes highly recommended. A basement cruising and cinema complex here has private cabins, and glory holes.

Beginning just outside the gates of Trinity College is the pedestrian shopping district at Grafton Street. Its broad expanse is packed with people and lined with every kind of shop and cafe you could imagine, large and small, and spilling off along adjacent streets. There are indoor arcades and malls here too, including the giant Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. Nearby Dawson Street has lots of bookshops, stylish cafes, and restaurants. At the top end of Grafton Street is St. Stephen's Greens, Dublin's large city park, with gardens, fountains, and lakes.

Resources and events

Gay Community News, or GCN is the informative free gay monthly magazine that's distributed throughout Ireland.

The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is set for May 3 to 16, 2010, the seventh year for this event. See their website for details on this and other area theater events.

Dublin Gay Pride is scheduled for a week of celebrations, this year June 18-27, 2010, with a Saturday parade in Dublin City Centre. Check local media for more details.

Fringefest is a festival of contemporary arts, an annual platform for the most innovative theater, dance, music, and more. The 2010 festival will take place September 11-26, click through to their website above for more.

Irish Film Institute (6 Eustace Street) screens rare cinematic gems, and film festivals in Temple Bar.

Alternative Miss Ireland is an annual expansion of "all known definitions of beauty." Catch them in 2011 for their "24st Tranniversary" spectacular -- details online (March 14 was their 2010 date).

Outhouse (105 Capel Street) is a fantastic building that now houses Dublin's GLBT community center as well as a cafe, meeting rooms for Belong, the gay youth group, and the Gay Men's Health Project. It's a great place for local information and the opportunity to meet local activists.

The Irish Queer Archive (35a Patrick Street) is a Dublin area non-profit group that collects all things Irish relating to homosexuality.

For general information about restaurants, shops and more in the Dublin district of many charms, click Temple Bar.

Beyond Dublin

Within an hour of Dublin there are extraordinary countryside areas to see such as the Glendalough lakes (one hour south), or near Newgrange, on the way to Drogheda and Belfast, there are prehistoric ruins, not unlike Stonehenge, that may be the world's oldest surviving man- made structure.

There are other Irish towns, each with its own gay community, and Belfast, to the north in Ulster, also has a gay scene. Click Cork for our article on that city.

For listings in Belfast, Derry, and Galway browse Ireland here on Guidemag.com.

Dublin is the gateway to many European destinations. With discount airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair, there's a wide choice of cities beyond at a fraction of bigger carriers' rates. The beautiful countryside and Dublin's fun-loving city pleasures are good reasons for a stop-over and a romp in Ireland's mystical landscape with people just waiting to charm the pants off you!

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